Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Travel: ijen Crater, Indonesia

I actually forgot which month this trip took place but after flipping through my passport, i'm quite certain this trip happened in August. Like i've mentioned in my previous post, i always wanted to do a travelogue on  my trip to ijen crater in Indonesia but while editing the photos, i realized i have forgotten most of the details and the only thing i can still remember is how tiring the hike to the crater was. LOL Nevertheless, i picked out some photos which somewhat sums up my 3D2N weekend trip to Mt. ijen! It all started when Kelvin texted me one night to ask if i'm interested to visit ijen with his colleagues and it would be an night hike to the crater of a volcano (?!) and there will be blue fire (?!) It all sounded pretty out of the world and i went to do some google-ing and found that it's true and the photos of the place seem really magnificent. There was also an airfare promo ongoing (like around $120?) as well so i readily agreed!
 photo 1_1.jpg
Fast forward to maybe a month later, the day has arrived. Met at the airport with the rest with our hand carry luggage (no check in luggage) and off we flew to Surabaya, Indonesia. The flight took about 2.5 hours. Upon arrival, we met our guide, hopped onto this mini van and traveled on the road forever to our accommodation for the first night. Yes, the journey took us literally the entire day. Not to mention that the accommodation wasn't exactly what we expected, LOL It's like a mini chalet kind of bungalow with the very basic necessities, 2 rooms, living room and a toilet. However there were no fans in the room, wall paints were peeling and moldy, electricity were turned off at midnight, the toilet had no shower and heater. There was just a huge basin filled with cold water and a small pail. Had a little camp fire outside with our guide and his friends, washed up and headed to sleep because we had to wake up early the following day for the sun rise - which wasn't really spectacular in my opinion. I think we slept for only a couple of hours.
 photo 5_1.jpg
The next morning we woke up at about 5 am to catch the sun rise (which i think we got the timing wrong because of the time zone difference, LOL) Went back to the room to freshen up, had breakfast, explored the place a little and off we hit the road again. Come to think of it, i think we spent most of the time in the car, LOL! We passed by Baluran National Park which is touted as the "Africa of Asia" because of the landscape and it's like a safari zone. When we drove through the park the night before, the skies were full of stars and the view is amazing. We wanted to step out of the car to see the sky and take some photos but our guide told us it was too dangerous so we could only admire from inside the car...
 photo 2_1.jpg
Stopped by this place along the road to have our lunch. Ordered the Ayam penyet (chicken) rice and these delicious banana and bread topped with chocolate sauce and shredded cheese snacks. I have seriously no idea why i was giving that eww expression when Sarah captured the shot. HAHA That's normally the kind of face i would give when i have eat something gross (like vegetables, lol) But nevertheless we all had a good meal before continuing our journey :)
 photo 3_1.jpg
As we are driving up the mountains, the weather started to get colder and colder and we soon we had to put on our jacket. It was also foggy to the point where we can't really see the road in front of us! It was quite scary to be honest. Arrived at our next accommodation in the late afternoon where we unpacked and headed out to a natural hot spring. Returned for dinner and had a couple of hours sleep before waking up at 2 am to start our night hike to the crater.

We were warned that it will get really cold in the middle of the night and we should wear more layers. We also bought gloves as well as rented gas mask because as we get nearer to the crater, the air will be filled with sulfuric gas. It gets really difficult to breathe with the mask on after prolong wearing of it though. The journey to the crater was pretty tough as it's an uphill hike and we don't exactly have proper shoes for hiking. Then again, it was nice to see each one of us encouraging each other along the way, waiting for one another and complete the hike together. The view at night was incredible. Even though it was dark, we could still make out the mountainous landscape and the skies were full of stars. I even stopped once in awhile just to take photos of the stars with my trusty G7x Canon camera (with this amazing star mode which never fails to amaze me!) The journey up took us about 2 hours but that's not the end. *cue drama music*
 photo a.jpg
Look at the incredible starry shot that i took with my camera! So amazing right! Anyway, at the end of the 2 hours hike, we arrived at the top of the crater and from there, we were able to the blue fire as promised! It was quite difficult to capture in photo and it was very far away. The shot above was taken with zoom. We had to make a choice at that point. To head down towards the blue fire and probably miss the sunrise or hike further up and wait for the sunrise... 

In the end we decided to head down. The way down was really dangerous and most of us almost wanted to give up towards the halfway mark. It was pitch dark (we only had our head lights) there were no exact indication on the way down, there were no railing to hold on to and we had to give way if we see any miners coming towards us. No exaggerating but i felt that if anyone were to step onto a loose rock and fall, he or she would probably plunge down and die or get injured really badly. It was that dangerous. Not forgetting the difficult in breathing with our masks...

As we got nearer to the blue fire, the skies also started to get brighter and brighter. 

 photo 6_1.jpg

There was a sense of achievement when we finally arrived at the bank of the crater where we saw the origin of the sulfuric fumes which ignited the blue fire. Apparently from Wikipedia, it's the largest blue flame area in the world. In front of us is this beautiful lake which we took photos with. It took us 2 hours to reach the rim of the crater, and another hour down to the bank.  A total of 3 hours in the middle of the night to reach this place, and that's only 1 way. LOL
 photo 7_1.jpg
At the bank of the crater where we were at, is the source of elementary sulfur. The miners breaks the sulfur into pieces and carry it away in baskets as shown in the above photo. They carry about 75 to 90 kg each time all the way down the mountain and most of them do it as least twice daily. From Wikipedia, their typical daily earnings were equivalent to approximately USD$13 which is about SGD18 a day. Can you imagine them going up and down the mountain carrying heavy load in such dangerous conditions and having minimal protection? I still remember one of them asking if i still need my gloves when i was on the way up. I gladly gave mine away to him. Some of them would try to sell their creative sulfur cravings (e.g animal shapes) to tourists along the way to earn some extra money for themselves.
 photo 8_1.jpg
 photo 9.jpg
Now that it's morning and bright daylight, we finally saw the dangerous route that we got down from. Even thought we took about an hour to get down, going up was much faster as we get to see where we are going and another reason to get away fast is because the wind is changing direction and we couldn't want to be caught in the toxic sulfuric fumes.
 photo 10.jpg
The view was magnificent on the way back. It was really really tiring and guess what? We were heading back to Singapore on the same day itself. Took about 2 hours to get back to our starting point under the hot sun (totally different condition from our way up) It was sandy and slippery and a lot of people slip and fall along the way! Headed back to our mini van, changed and off we head to the airport. Another 4 to 5 hours ride and a couple of stops maybe?
 photo 11.jpg
Overall it was a tiring but awesome experience. I'm quite sure i wouldn't have plan for a hiking trip like this without someone asking. (apparently there is also a Mt Bromo around the area but i guess not, LOL) It was quite an eye opener and definitely not the "usual" holiday getaway, That's it for my ijen trip, maybe you might want to try heading to ijen for your next holiday destination? :P

Mission accomplished,